Onion farming was antiquated, unprofitable and more about subsistence and not a business, for Salum Khamis until he came across the Kibowavi project.
Poor postharvest practices occur throughout the onion value chain, especially during transit. Gaps in knowledge on how to properly grade bulbs for marketing and how to manage stored produce accentuate losses. With few good storage facilities available, he had no choice but sell onion at low prices during glut periods. This reduced his earnings.
The resident of Tete in Songwe district in Songwe region started horticulture farming in 2010 specializing mostly in onion farming and says he was doing so as an option of last resort for survival and never dreamed that he was in massive business.
After meeting Kibowavi, a swahili short form for empowering women and youth in horticulture production and marketing which aspires to contribute towards inclusive economic growth, promote private sector development and job creation in the horticulture sector and increase food security and nutrition in the southern highlands of Tanzania, he did not change his negative perception about agriculture but it change his life for better.
Training on good storage practices done at Igawa, where there is a huge onion storage facility, stirred up the potential in him. He decided to construct his own storage facility which made the difference in his farming life.
“After the training at Igawa I realized sky is the only limit, I did my homework well and realized the construction of the facility uses materials that are plenty available in my surroundings, so I constructed two storages with the capacity of 500 onion bags each, ” he says.
He adds that formerly the majority of farmers’ concentration was on good farming practices, quality seeds, application of manure. Little attention was paid on the post-harvest aspect of the yields. They just stored onions locally which resulted in the loss of about half of the harvest.
Salum says now he is a business person utilizing all potentials in the agriculture value chain. In March this year his harvest of 500 bags of onion was all stored well at his facility and he sold them at a better market price.
“After this storage it’s when I realize the sense behind the slogan that agriculture is the backbone of our economy. In a span of less than two years I manage to build a modern house and a hostel for college students in a prime area in my hometown, Singida,” he explains.
Apart from these successes his storage is used by fellow farmers to store their produce in case the price is not in their favor during harvest, which has made him start planning for adding more facilities to keep pace with the demand.
Salum’s success story has its roots at Igawa, in Mbarali district where 382 members of the Igomelo irrigation scheme cooperative union shared the same fate as his.
According to the scheme cooperative union vice chairman, Yohana Sihilo, post- harvest loss was 50 percent of the onion yields each season due to poor storage facilities.
“We had traditional storage facilities here at our premises, when Kibowavi project paid us a visit, they were surprised by the rate of post-harvest losses. So we agreed to co finance the construction of modern storage facility you see here,” says Sihilo.
“For members Igomelo Irrigation scheme cooperative reducing post-harvest losses to almost one percent from half of the produce was not but a far-fetched dream. When we convened a meeting to ask for the approval, they were like this was to be done yesterday, thanks to the intervention by Kibowavi project.
Reducing post-harvest loss is a reasonable step towards food security globally. The causes and drivers of postharvest losses in onion were rot, diseases and pests, drying and bruises, poor storage facilities, poor transportation systems, long distances to marketing centres, poor agricultural extension services and inadequate credit.
The quality and safety of onions depends on proper handling and storage. Fresh market retail processing can affect the flavor and quality of the onions people take home
Onions are highly nutritious vegetables that may have several benefits, including improved heart health, better blood sugar regulation, and increased bone density.
Onions are members of the Allium genus of flowering plants, which also includes garlic, shallots, and leeks.
They’re delicious, versatile, and relatively cheap, and they boast a wide range of healthy vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds.
The medicinal properties of onions have been recognized for thousands of years trusted source. Athletes in ancient Greece supposedly used onions to purify their blood, while medieval and traditional doctors prescribed them to help treat headaches, heart disease, and mouth sores.